Background: A common problem in phylogenetic analysis is to identify frequent patterns in a collection of phylogenetic trees. The goal is, roughly, to find a subset of the species (taxa) on which all or some significant subset of the trees agree. One popular method to do so is through maximum agreement subtrees (MASTs). MASTs are also used, among other things, as a metric for comparing phylogenetic trees, computing congruence indices and to identify horizontal gene transfer events. Results: We give algorithms and experimental results for two approaches to identify common patterns in a collection of phylogenetic trees, one based on agreement subtrees, called maximal agreement subtrees, the other on frequent subtrees, called maximal frequent subtrees. These approaches can return subtrees on larger sets of taxa than MASTs, and can reveal new common phylogenetic relationships not present in either MASTs or the majority rule tree (a popular consensus method). Our current implementation is available on the web at https://code.google.com/p/mfst-miner/. Conclusions: Our computational results confirm that maximal agreement subtrees and all maximal frequent subtrees can reveal a more complete phylogenetic picture of the common patterns in collections of phylogenetic trees than maximum agreement subtrees; they are also often more resolved than the majority rule tree. Further, our experiments show that enumerating maximal frequent subtrees is considerably more practical than enumerating ordinary (not necessarily maximal) frequent subtrees.
JournaltitleAlgorithms for Molecular Biology : AMB